thanks for the suggestions folks. since my wife and i bought this house, we've been thinking about knocking that wall down and i have been sulking and procrastinating because i knew it would be a pain (yeah, i planned on doing "both" sides even back then.)
i have some experience with hardwood flooring -- enough to know that it's hard to rip the the boards up without ruining them, that i'll be doing back exercises for a week after i'm done, that my best hope for a "match" in grain and color is a nice tiger-stripe that doesn't make you dizzy....
fortunately, the people who built this house really weren't great flooring contractors. i can't screw it up too much more than it is.
i thought about the perpendicular strip, maybe even putting in some of that cheap parquet flooring, but i don't want to subdivide the room. believe me, i tried to convince myself that that solution was the best, but it just wouldn't look good. i think i'm stuck. if one of you guys could pick up my muscle-relaxer prescription, i'd appreciate it. i've got some work to do.