This server just won't run and I can't figure out why... what should I do first to try and troubleshoot the problem?

Apache tries to be helpful when it encounters a problem. In many cases, it will provide some details by writing one or more messages to the server error log. Sometimes this is enough for you to diagnose & fix the problem yourself (such as with file permissions). The default location of the error log is /var/log/httpd/error_log, but refer to ErrorLog directive in your config files for the location on your server.