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Lobster Tale

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THE MOVE FROM MAINE TO CALIFORNIA has been very good for Spike, an 18-pound lobster who only eight weeks ago was the potential lead half of your basic surf-and-turf combination. Now he spends his days in the trap of luxury, in a tank of 45-degree water kept at just the right saline and bacterial levels. He dines on such former neighbors as fresh oysters, calamari, clams and shrimp, all prepared by the chef at Gladstone’s 4 Fish in Pacific Palisades and presented to him at the end of a chopstick.

Forces are abroad in the land, though, that would end Spike’s cozy arrangement. Animal rights advocates, including Mary Tyler Moore, want him shipped home. Rush Limbaugh wants to have Spike for dinner.

Spike arrived at Gladstone’s in a shipment of 700 other North Atlantic lobsters for its October lobster festival. He alone survived, largely because customers were intrigued by his size and presumed age—up to 50 years old. Someone called him Spike, and the restaurant decided to adopt him, setting him up in a tank donated by a supermarket chain.

Spike seemed destined for a life of ease on the West Coast until protesters from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals began picketing Gladstone’s, waving Free Spike banners. An airline offered to fly him home free of charge. Moore, who has always had a soft spot for oppressed fauna, offered $1,000 to facilitate Spike’s repatriation. “I am sure that by whatever means a lobster feels and understands its surroundings,” she said, “this one would prefer to be back home in his native waters off the coast of Maine.” Limbaugh has made a counteroffer of $2,000, with the intention of getting Spike into some serious hot water. “Spike’s welcome for dinner,” cackles a Limbaugh press release, “but he shouldn’t plan on dessert.”

Gayla Simmons, the restaurant’s director of marketing, quoting marine biologists, maintains that once a lobster has been transported cross-country at severely lowered temperatures, there is no way to send it back safely. And the Pacific Ocean, although right outside the door, has a different ecosystem and climate from the one to which Spike was accustomed.

PETA isn’t buying this argument and wants to keep up its protests until Spike splashes down in the Atlantic.

And meanwhile, Spike’s not in any Rush.