What would you suggest as a learning path for an absolute beginner?

I'm 38 with no drawing skill at all, but like lots of other people I'm blown away by the pro and amateur concept art I see here and other websites. I have a vivid imagination and 30 years of fantasy/sci-fi inspiration & visual library to help, but I need to get the fundamentals first.

I have tried to start sketching various things but I'm getting sick of drawing crap apples and would like to lay out a progression path of things I need to learn before I should start looking at buying a tablet and learning digital painting. I understand that drawing lots is the only way to learn but I'd like to target my learning on specific areas that will allow me to progress as fast as possible i.e. do I really need to learn to draw the human body from memory if I want to put my ideas of environments & moody lighting down on paper/pixel? It's something I will definitely do eventually but I want to tailor learning to my specific interests to keep myself interested.

I feel there's no point in starting a sketchbook thread as I need to get my head around the basics first.

So, what would you suggest as a progression path of fundamentals from zero to buying a tablet & learning to paint digitally? Should I jump straight into environments or keep to crap apples for now?!