3 FRIDAY Karen Kruse’s father spent 30 years in the Chicago Fire Department, half those at Engine 78, across from Wrigley Field. Now Kruse is telling the story of the 117-year-old firehouse and its crews over the years through firsthand accounts from the firefighters in A Chicago Firehouse: Stories of Wrigleyville’s Engine 78. Kruse, whose previous subject matter was Chicago cemeteries, will discuss her book–which includes a foreword by Mike Ditka–tonight at 7:30 at Barnes & Noble, 1441 W. Webster (773-871-3825).

The Real Live Wake-up Show–presented tonight in its fifth installment–actually takes place in the evening and is meant to jolt people out of their TV-induced stupor. The night of entertainment “2 bridge generation gaps and cultivate cohesiveness within the community” is the brainchild of “discopoet” Khari B., who will perform spoken word with Mwata Bowden’s Sound Spectrum, a six-piece combo that includes AACM stalwarts Ari Brown and Saleem Shelton Salley. Fashion designer Chelesea Darling D’Amini will also show her latest line at the event, which starts at 9 at HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo. Tickets are $10. Call 312-362-9707.

4 SATURDAY In 1992, National Cuff Link Society cofounders Gene Klompus and his wife, Pat, were captivated by Time magazine’s cover photo of George Bush the First. “My wife noticed he had a pair of cuff links on” bearing the presidential seal, says Klompus, who owns 50,000 pairs. They wrote to the president, and to their surprise he sent back “a nice letter”–and the cuff links he’d been wearing in the photo. They’ll be on display, along with pairs owned by Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, and Lyndon B. Johnson, at this weekend’s National Cuff Link Society Exhibition & Sale. There will also be free cuff link evaluations, 60 dealer tables (including one manned by actress Loretta Swit, who’s now a jewelry designer), live auctions of cuff links, and awards for such things as best cuff link story. Attendees will receive a free pair of cuff links (limit one per family). It runs from noon to 5:30 today and 11 to 5 tomorrow at the Ramada Hotel O’Hare, 6600 N. Mannheim in Rosemont. Admission is free; call 847-816-0035.

5 SUNDAY “A thunderous, deafening explosion jolted the air with an immediate violent quake, shaking the very foundation of the earth and everything that stood on it,” wrote Hiroshima survivor Tamura Hideko Snider in her 1996 memoir, One Sunny Day: A Child’s Memories of Hiroshima. “The end of the world must have come, I thought.” Snider, who was ten when the U.S. dropped the first A-bomb, lost her mother in the blast. She’s the featured speaker at tonight’s free Hiroshima Memorial, where there’ll be music, more speakers, and a display of 1,300 paper lanterns, each representing 100 victims of the bomb nicknamed Little Boy. It starts at 6 in front of the Henry Moore sculpture Nuclear Energy (at the U. of C. campus, on Ellis between 56th and 57th)–not far from the spot where Enrico Fermi and his colleagues first engineered a controlled nuclear chain reaction. Call 312-939-3316 for more.

6 MONDAY “It’s like Beckett rewritten for MTV,” wrote Reader reviewer Adam Langer in September 1994 of Alive. “This play…about disaffected jamokes in their 20s [succeeds] because it explores complex, individual characters instead of blathering on about the struggles of a generation.” Succeed it did: Nick Digilio and Mike Meredith’s comedy ran for two and a half years at the Factory Theater. Tonight the original cast is reuniting for a one-night-only show to benefit Barrel of Monkeys, a not-for-profit children’s theater and outreach group. Tickets are $20; the show starts at 8 at the Viaduct Theater, 3111 N. Western. Call 312-409-1954.

7 TUESDAY Chicago boxer Clay Justin’s best friend has vanished, his ex-girlfriend hates him, his primary opponent hits below the belt, and worst of all his ex-wife is writing a romance novel featuring a protagonist named Clay. That’s the setup for Johnny Payne’s new novel, North of Patagonia (published by local imprint Triquarterly Books), which uses satire to examine such heavy issues as loyalty, class, and race. Payne, who used to teach English at Northwestern and now directs the creative writing program at Florida Atlantic University, will read from his book Monday night at 7:30 at Borders in Oak Park (1144 Lake, 708-386-6927) and tonight at 7:30 at the Oak Brook Borders (1500 16th St., 630-574-0800). Both events are free.

8 WEDNESDAY For her first book of short stories, Leigh Buchanan Bienen drew on her background in criminal law and the time she’d spent living in Nigeria; her characters range from an electric-chair switch thrower to a bored corporate lawyer. The Northwestern University School of Law senior lecturer (and wife of NU president Henry Bienen) studied with novelist Vladimir Nabokov while a student at Cornell, worked as an assistant to Saul Bellow in the 1960s, and has coauthored two nonfiction books. Her short story “My Life as a West African Gray Parrot,” which author Joyce Carol Oates called “disturbing,” is included in The Left-Handed Marriage: Stories. Bienen will read from and discuss her book tonight at 7:30 at Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark. It’s free (773-769-9299).

At last year’s ComedySportz Intra-National Tournament in Austin, Texas, the Chicago team threw a match: they disqualified themselves by writing a script, strictly verboten in the improv world, so that an unregistered team from Richmond, Virginia, would get a chance to play. There’s no telling what will happen at this year’s event, held in Chicago for the first time and featuring 15 ComedySportz teams from around the country (including Milwaukee, where the competitive improv franchise started in 1984). The local team is in matches Thursday and Saturday; the tourney kicks off tonight at 8, when D.C. plays San Jose and Phoenix takes on the Quad Cities. All shows take place at the ComedySportz Theatre, 2851 N. Halsted, except for the 7:30 show on Saturday, which will be at Coyle’s Tippling House, 2843 N. Halsted. Saturday night’s championship match is at 10:30. Tickets are $15, and reservations are recommended. Call 773-549-8080.

9 THURSDAY Over the past two decades German artist Joachim Schmid has collected more than 700 torn and frayed photographs, usually depicting families, that he’s found on the street. His installation Pictures From the Street features every seventh photo from the collection, arranged by date found; they’ll hang close together in one long line starting tonight at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, 600 S. Michigan. Showing simultaneously with that installation is Statics, which Schmid created using items that incorporate photos–baseball cards and gallery invitations–and a paper shredder. Tonight’s free opening takes place from 5 to 8; Schmid will lead a tour of his work and discuss his use of found photographs at 6:30. Both shows run through October 13. Call 312-663-5554.