Really yanking the brake handle up worked. Old gearshift cables out, and new ones in. Still need to redo their adjustment (did via FSM way; reverse is not smooth), and put back on the console. Was fairly easy to feed through the cables with the engine out, but did need to bend down that tunnel heat shield. It bent back nicely though.
Fixed Up a white 2001 P-code SE Sedan
including rebuilding the SPI (see my threads)