The way to start mysql is to run the following as root: mysqld_safe
Or, another way to start it, which I find is better, is to use the Menu's "Run Program" program (Alt-F2), and run the command "gksu mysqld_safe", because then you don't have to contend with a terminal being perpetually open while it runs. Just ensure you have gksu installed to do this.
ETA: It can also be helpful too to have phpMyAdmin
installed to better administer your mysql installation. Just download it and put the phpMyAdmin folder in your webserver folder, being sure to change the ownership to your server (IE, if it's lighttpd, then change the ownership of the folder and files to lighttpd.) Then access it by going to http://yourdomain