You caught me -- my "lisp" experience such as it is consists of Scheme and Emacs Lisp.
This may also have influenced your perception of Lisp's object system; I don't think that CLOS is awkward at all, and it certainly needn't involve mucking about with closures in any way (although an implementor could do it that way if desired, I suppose).
Also, though Common Lisp does have catch and throw, they're not typically the way (at least in their raw form) one would handle errors. Better to use the condition system which is provided for that very purpose and which is quite powerful. Kent Pitman (one of the authors of the part of the spec about conditions) has some articles which I'm too lazy to find pointers to right now. The chapter in the spec on conditions is perfectly readable to get a start in the right direction on using it. (In short, to get Java-like functionality, one can define errors using define-condition, "throw" them using error, and "catch" them using hander-case. This suffices to do a lot. Then one can learn to use the rest of the system to do all kinds of other miraculous and fascinating things :-) - Pitman's papers will probably give a better explanation than I.)
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