You say "when you (finally) get an object in the ep, lock the clutches and let the mount track"
I had no idea that if I get something within the eyepiece by slewing with the buttons that it would track whatever is in the eyepiece. How will the mount know to track that object?
The whole purpose of a GEM mount is to align it's axes with the how the sky rotates so that when the RA axis moves, it will track whatever the scope it pointing at.
Think of it like this. Open an umbrella, hold it out at arms's length, and point it at the North Star. Paint a bunch of stars on the inside of it and slowly rotate it. The stars you painted on it are now moving in a circle around the North Star. This is the way the sky moves (actually the Earth is moving, but the sky appears to move). If one of the stars you painted lined up with a real star, and if you spun the umbrella at the right speed, you'd be tracking that star across the sky.
Now if you take a mount and align the RA axis with the North Star, you've done the same thing as pointing the umbrella at it. If you spin the mount around the RA axis at the right speed, it will move in exactly the same way that the sky does.
Moving the Declination axis is like focusing your gaze closer to the center of the umbrella, or father away from the center. If you move the Dec axis so that your scope is aiming at a star at the edge of our fictitious umbrella, you can now leave the Dec axis alone, and simply moving the RA axis at the right speed will track the object.
So the point is, after the mount is polar aligned, you can point the scope anywhere you like. The RA axis just continues to rotate at the same speed as the sky and whatever object you're pointing at will be tracked.
As for the buttons, again think of the umbrella. Moving the up/down buttons moves the scope closer to the center of rotation or farther away (Declination). Moving the left/right buttons will rotate the scope around the North Star one way or the other (Right Ascension). When you are not using any buttons, but the mount is in tracking mode, it is simply moving the RA axis so it rotates around the North Star at the same speed as the sky.
Hope this helps!