The crisis was the moment when I realized that trying to take the freewheel off to clean it was a mistake. Little did I know that A. removing the freewheel just about always ends in a complete overhaul of the rear component, and B. you need a special tool to even remove a freewheel. One that I do not possess. Loosening the nuts on the ends will only result in a really cool long piece sliding out of the middle of the entire wheel, and *hey* a neat little handful of ball bearings that no matter how you balance the bike, smash your fingers, or poke with needle nose pliers, will absolutely NOT fit back in the way they seem to have started. So, about an hour, and lots of panicking later, the crisis was averted with only two little ball bearings left over... Who needed those two anyways??
[note: this will probably be one of those "hindsight" moments later. And no, you can't say "I told you so," because I already beat you to it.]
At the end of the day I was left with things to do: figure out the brakes and shifting systems, clean the seat and kickstand, and things to get: A new chain (mine's shot...) and new tubes and tires. The (very) old ones seem to have been whitewall.... What do you think? Should I go for it? I got a funny feeling thinking about cruising around with the whitewalls and chrome popping against the purple frame, I'm just not too sure.