Some stores opened at 12:01 a.m. today. JCPenney opened at 4 a.m. Many others at 5. Even the Harley-Davidson dealerships in Roanoke and Christiansburg opened at 5 with deep discounts on bikes, parts and clothes until 8 a.m.

It’s Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping day of the year…the day most retailers hope to sell enough to put their businsses into the black.

Odds are that won’t happen this year. Analysts say worried consumers will hold on to their money and avoid the "big ticket" items that make cash registers sing at the mall.

Even worse, shopping malls and other businesses are in trouble. Many have already missed mortgage payments and more will face foreclosure in the coming year.

Amy and I avoid the madness of Black Friday. We last participated in the annual ritual in 1991 when we went to New York to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and then stayed over on Friday to Christmas shop in Manhattan.

Big mistake. Take the crowds you see at Valley View Mall on Black Friday and multiply them by at least 500 and you might have some idea of what the streets of New York are like on the day after Thanksgiving.

The only shopping spectacle that tops Black Friday in the Big Apple is the day after New Year’s in London. We spent New Year’s Eve in London in 1986 and witnessed the post-New Year’s shopping blitz when hoards descend on the city’s West End like iguanas in a feeding frenzy.

No more. Yet, in a moment of fever-crazed madness brought up by pneumonia-induced lunacy, I suggested last night we might want to get up this morning and hit the Harley Dealer at 5 a.m. to check out the bargains. Amy went along with the idea with some misgivings and got up in the wee hours but I refused to budge. Sleep became my moment of sanity..

We’ll shop locally this year and buy what we can’t find around here online. It’s easier that way.

(Photo courtesy of Reuters. Copyright © 2008 Reuters Limited)