here is an update
it turns out that if I tell apple's apple id manager page that i can't remember my appleID itself (vs. password), it will send a reset to the new email address. after resetting the password, it sends a confirmationf or an AppleID listed as the NEW email address. that is what I was missing.
So, I went and checked out active download account on iTunes, and it is configured to an appleID which is the string defining the OLD email address!
and of course, I can't view the account there b/c the old password isn't working, and I can't seem to reset that account.
Any response I am getting from apple is for a NEW appleID that I was unaware had been generated, using the string for the NEW email address.
To this, I have to say to Apple, ***?!!!
this is decidedly un-Apple like behavior. More like ... Microsoft.
If I manage to get a human on the phone at apple, I'll update with an explanation and solution. In the meantime, would appreciate any helpful input from the community.