I guess it was typical- I had a system that needed some work- and I was scrambling around trying to install and use new tools.
Suffice to say that it was user error (PEBCAK). I finally did boot the CD, it appears that the initial ISO burn wasn't complete, though ISO burner thought it was complete. That's why the boot hung looking for a configuration file.
Once I retried ISO burner, and I got a good CD, there were no problems.
I ended up scrubbing the system and reinstalling the OS, just because it was less work than fixing all the broken bits.
Thank you for the great boot CD!