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file loading query

re: 1. Anybody know a *portable* trick I can use to get embedded calls to LOAD
    to use the parent file's pathname as a default?

I doubt that there's a portable trick.  Lucid Common Lisp supports an
extension as follows:
    (defvar *load-pathname* nil
      "During a load, this is bound to the pathname of the file being loaded.")
and ocasionally it is used to find out what directory the currently
loading file is on, so that a related file can be loaded from the same

-- JonL --