> I'd really like root level pages, can I set the permission to be writable
> for when I need to and then reset to not writable after?
You can login by FTP and change permissions for /httpdocs/store/ folder to 777. In this case you will be able to create root level pages in control panel.
Note: root level pages in control panel are relative to the store, so in reality those pages will saved in /store/ folder. URL of that page will be: http://www.YOURDOMAIN.COM/store/your_root_static_page.html
On a contrary, if you add Embedded level static page, that page will be re-generated in to truly root level html page by html catalog generator as soon as you enable it in the store. So url to that page will be: