I think that after munging XML in Perl, you might have forgotten the learning curve of using XML in Perl can be quite steep. Not impossible, but it is there.
My frustration with the situation is apparent but it wasn't meant to be a derogatory statement about Perl or about XML. I'm sorry if it was taken that way.
As I said earlier, thanks to everyone that pointed out modules that might make handling XML a bit easier... I think the underlying fault of the problem may be the design of XML itself. It may be too flexible to satisfactorily parse and manipulate in an intuitive manner in all cases without knowing in advance the data format of the stream.