I'm not sure what you're stressing about, use the latest firmware and launch in application mode (not applet mode, don't use album icon) and get on with your day.
If you don't like holding R on a game to start hbmenu, then install a game you don't want to play, configure atmosphere to override that specific titleid rather than any application, and when a button is not pressed ("!R"), then selecting that game will open hbmenu. Bonus points for using sys-tweak to change the game's name and icon hbmenu.
I think my solution is using the Switch as a Linux tablet. I'm much more comfortable in Linux and this homebrew stuff is a bit too wonky and rigid for me. I just installed L4T and now I can run RetroArch and anything else compiled for ARM.
I am curious about one thing though, when you launch L4T how exactly does the boot process work? For example, does it require the original Nintendo OS to function? Could you theoretically install L4T to the system NAND and completely replace Nintendo's OS on the Switch?